Book Review: Gut Feeling by Victoria Browne

Gut Feeling by Victoria Browne is a contemporary romance. Ashleigh Lands has given up the chance for a new life in America with her family, choosing to stay in London with her boyfriend, Lee Preston. When Lee cheats on her and quickly becomes an ex-boyfriend, Ashleigh loses herself in work and alcohol. Five months later, however, she’s ready for change and decides to reach for a new, empowered self. When window glazier Dave Croft shows up for a job at the dental practice where Ashleigh works, the two hit it off immediately. Ashleigh is elated—has her luck in love finally changed? Can she trust her gut feeling?

Gut Feeling left me with mixed feelings. I like that Ashleigh and Dave are each working towards being better people and opening themselves to each other, and that they both have issues to resolve. I liked the supportive friends and some of the intrigue brought on by the friends, ex's, and siblings. However, I quickly got annoyed with Ashleigh and her constant second guessing herself and putting herself down and equating having a man in her life as success. I understood some of it, and related to some of it. I hate conflict and confrontation too, but there are times when it is the best option for everyone involved- and the soon you do it the better.  They do have heart to heart talks, but the majority of the worries that they each have do not get around to talking about. There were several times that I almost put the book down, but I still have trouble doing that.
Gut Feeling is a romance with plenty on introspection and good secondary characters.

Early Book Review: Finding Mr. Right Next Door (Firefighters of Station 1) by Sarah Ballance

Finding Mr. Right Next Door is the second book in the Firefighters of Station 1 series by Sarah Ballance and currently scheduled for release on May 11 2020. You can read each book as a stand alone, but there a few spoilers if you read out of order.

For Lexi Dean, burning down her kitchen was disaster enough. Agreeing to move in next door with her totally off-limits best friend, Matt Freeman, until her house is livable again? They’ve always been close, but this is ridiculous. If she’s not bumping into him at the refrigerator, he’s at the front door giving her date the third degree. And slipping between his borrowed sheets? That’s about as distracting as listening to his shower run, because suddenly all she can think about is rivulets of water cascading down is spectacular body—the one he seems to be going out of his way to make sure she notices. Not that it matters. He can flaunt his firefighter abs around her all he wants. They already share everything—their jobs, their friends, their backyard, even their dog—and that means only one thing: Lexi is not going to risk losing any of it by dipping a single toe in the temptation that is Matt Freeman. Lexi may not know how to handle a fire extinguisher, but this is one fire that just might burn them both if they’re not careful.

Finding Mr. Right Next Door is a contemporary romance that I have mixed feelings about. I felt bad for Lexi on occasion, her friends seem to tease her constantly and self esteem and having an uncomfortable conversation seem beyond her. Matt is painted as almost too perfect, aside from his worries about losing Lexi's friendship. There are some funny moments, some heat, and lots of me shaking my head. I liked the secondary characters and thought some of the book was very well written. However, despite a few attempts at talking it out that were shot down and avoided, I was so annoyed with the fact that two people that had supposedly been best friends forever could not just sit down and talk. I get the fear of wrecking a friendship with a romantic relationship, but how can you even have a friendship if you are not willing to talk to each other?

Finding Mr. Right Next Door is a friends to more romance that will appeal to fans of the author and series.

Early Book Review: Glow in the Dark: Nature's Light Spectacular: 12 Stunning Scenes of Earth's Greatest Shows by Katy Flint, Cornelia Li

Glow in the Dark: Nature's Light Spectacular: 12 Stunning Scenes of Earth's Greatest Shows, written by Katy Flint and illustrated by Cornelia Li, is a children's book currently scheduled for release on May 19 2020. Follow two intrepid explorers as they witness the Northern Lights, marvel in wonder at glow worm caves, go hunting for double rainbows, and dodge volcanic lightning. Each spread features an enchanting illustration of a different natural phenomenon animated by a description of the science behind it, told in exciting prose. Fact boxes call out more information.  And for those with the paper edition there is a glow in the dark poster featuring the stages of a solar eclipse. 
Glow in the Dark is simple beautiful to look at. The full page illustration of the light effects of our world are worth the purchase price all on their own. The fact boxes and information about each of the natural light shows include Volcanic Lightning, Meteor Showers, Double Rainbows, Sun Dogs, Glowworm Caves, Super Blood Moon, Light pillars, and Auroras. I learned new things about each of these phenomenon and found the information offered to be well written and interesting. I think the combination of the stunning layouts and well done text will capture the interest of readers, and perhaps encourage further research or exploration in young readers. I think this would be a valuable addition to libraries, and as a classroom tool in discussing these topics and the science of light in general.

Glow in the Dark is a visually stunning book with interesting information that will capture the attention of a wide range of readers.

Early Book Review: To Kill a Mocking Girl (Bookbinding Mystery) by Harper Kincaid

To Kill a Mocking Girl is the first book in the Bookbinding Mystery series by Harper Kincaid. It is currently scheduled for release on May 12 2020. I planned to be following this series to see where it goes from here. However, the author's behavior and bios on social media has them now on my do not buy list. Sadly I had read and reviewed the book via netgalley before seeing it and still will post my honest review as it was written prior to the RWA implosion and everything that came to light during the winter holidays.

Quinn Victoria Caine is back in her quirky town of Vienna, Virginia, starting her new life as a bookbinder in her family-owned, charm-for-days bookshop, Prose & Scones. With her trusty German Shepherd RBG-'Ruff Barker' Ginsburg by her side, what can go wrong? Okay, sure, bumping into her ex, Scott, or her former high school nemesis, Tricia, is a drag. It certainly doesn't help they have acquired the new hobby of shoving their recent engagement in her face every chance they get. But that doesn't mean Quinn wanted to find Tricia dead in the road. So why does half the town think she may have done it? Quinn is determined to find Tricia's killer, even if it means partnering with her cousin-turned-nun, Sister Daria, and Detective Aiden Harrington, her older brother's too-movie-star-handsome-for-his-own good, best friend. They believe she's innocent, but of course that doesn't influence the police, who peg her as their prime suspect. But there is no way Quinn is going to stop now. Vienna is her town and-for better or worse-Tricia was one of their own. Someone may have killed the mocking girl, but no one's going to stop the notorious QVC.

To Kill a Mocking Girl is a well paced and engaging read. I like that Kincaid did not go for a massive information dump in the beginning of the book, rather revealed Quinn's family and the quirks of the town in a more organic manner. I liked Quinn's character- she is smart and capable with a touch of vulnerability. I really liked her collection of knowledge and how deeply she cares about the people around her and doing the right thing. I also enjoyed Quinn's extended family and individuals she crossed paths with regularly. Although it did feel like the author was trying to drop in mentions and bits to be recognized as diversity, without actually giving any  real depth to the characters or backstories that were used. It had no bearing on the characters or the story- so it felt more like she was trying to check of boxes or show of how 'progressive' she could be. That nagged at me a bit, and I think the story might have been better served by not making that play or by actually taking further steps with that information actually mattering. The mystery elements were well done, although I will say that the hints dropped in the story led me to guess two of the details before the big reveal, but I did miss the who which is always a nice surprise. I liked that there was a good deal of character development for Quinn and those closest to her. The details about the secondary characters are often what keeps me invested in a story, and in a series. 

To Kill a Mocking Girl is a solid start to a mystery series with a nice balance of danger, humor, obscure facts, and romance. 

Early Book Review: A Rainbow of Rocks by Kate Depalma

A Rainbow of Rocks by Kate Depalma is a children's book currently scheduled for release on May 15 2020. This book offers exactly what the title suggests, a rainbow of rocks from ruby to amethyst and beyond. Close-up photos of real, vibrant rocks and minerals in a rainbow of colors are paired with rhyming text about the many facets of geology. Includes educational notes perfect for STEM learning.

A Rainbow of Rocks is a lovely, rhyming primer covering the basics of geology for young readers. The text is fairly simple, but still imparts some good information to readers of all ages. The images are bold and bright, and worth a look all on their own. I think the combination of the stunning images, with information, and rhyming text will really keep the interest and attention of readers. I really appreciated the addition of additional information at the end of the book, in the form of a Q&A with more complex information for the more interested or advanced readers. 

I think A Rainbow of Rocks is a book that would be a good addition to any library, including school and public collections. 

Early Book Review: Blue Flag, Vol. 1 by KAITO

Blue Flag, Vol. 1 by KAITO is a young adult manga that is currently scheduled for release on May 10 2020. It’s the last year of high school, and love is in the air. Romantic feelings that have been building up over years of friendship come to light. When Taichi’s classmate Futaba asks him to help her confess to his best friend, Toma, it sparks the catalyst that begins the sweet and heart-wrenching journey of their third and final year of high school.

Blue Flag is a well written and drawn story. I liked the art style, and how no character is too perfect or bad. They are all just high school students trying to navigate school, relationships, and their own feelings. They are each complex characters, and changing as they grow and figure out who they are, what they like, and who the like. At that age these things are all moving targets, and  think the story does a good job of illustrating that. Taichi is getting a better understanding of some of the choices he has made, and how he appears to others. Futaba is trying to come out of her shell and be a stronger person, and Toma has secrets he is not ready to share. Watching their interactions with each other, and the larger scope of schoolmates and family, was fascinating and I cannot wait to see what happens next. I will admit that I saw some of the complications or secrets coming, but I so enjoyed the ride. My only issue with the story is that it ended just as things were getting good and I really want the next book.

Book Review: The Mythics #1 Heroes Reborn by Philippe Ogaki; Patricia Lyfoung; Patrick Sobral

The Mythics #1 Heroes Reborn by Philippe Ogaki; Patricia Lyfoung; and Patrick Sobral is a children's graphic novel. In the ancient times of Gods and heroes, evil attempted to seize the world disguising themselves as six different gods. While they were spreading all their power of destruction, six heroes, each with extraordinary powers and brandishing sacred weapons, rose against these incarnations of evil. The evil was defeated and sealed in a secret place within the red desert on the planet Mars. Today, enter six young heirs: Yuko of Japan, Parvati of India, Amir of Egypt, Abigail of Germany, Miguel of Mexico, and Neo of Greece suddenly pulled from their everyday lives. About to face the greatest threat that the contemporary world has ever known, in a flash, they get to discover just how worthy successors they may be of the ancient heroes.

Heroes Reborn is a graphic novel telling three origin stories, with three more to come. The artwork is very well done and I liked the style. The stories were nicely varied, with different locations and the focus or each tale different in lifestyle and interests than the others. The action was good, and the stories were well told. My problem is that none of it was surprising. The twists as to who was the carrier of evil in each part was fairly predictable, as were the reactions of the teens discovering their powers and dealing with their guide. It felt like so many other stories, so many superpower or magic origin stories, that I started skimming the action scenes in ope that the next character development moment would wow me. It was not badly told but it was not extraordinary. It felt familiar and fun, but not as new or fresh as I was hoping. 

Heroes Reborn is a well drawn and entertaining graphic novel. 

Early Book Review: A Secret for a Secret (All In) by Helena Hunting

A Secret for a Secret is the third book in the All In series by Helena Hunting. Each book can be enjoyed as part of the series or on its own. It is currently scheduled for release on May  12 2020. 

My name is Ryan Kingston, and I’m a rule follower. I’ve never been in a fistfight. I always obey the speed limit. I don’t get drunk, and I definitely don’t pick up random women at bars. Except the night I found out that my whole existence has been a lie. I got drunk. And picked up a stranger. Her name was Queenie, and she was everything I’m not: reckless, impulsive, and chaotic. We did shots and traded secrets. And ended up naked at my place. She left me a thank-you note in the morning and her panties as a parting gift. But no way to contact her. Six weeks later I’m sitting in the first official team meeting of the season, and there she is. I neglected to mention that I’m the goalie for Seattle’s NHL team. And Queenie? Turns out she’s the general manager’s daughter.
A Secret for a Secret is a sports romance with humor, heat, and heart. Ryan looks and acts like a boy scout, but his family life and history is not as perfect as anyone looking at him would suspect. Queenie feels like she is an utter mess, and has little faith in herself. When a one night stand has to change into a working relationship the battle really starts. I liked watching them come together, and get to know themselves and each other better. I could understand both of their frustrations, self doubt, and concern for each other. I did see a couple of the twists coming, but just enough so that I wanted to warn the characters to spare them the confrontations and additional angst.  As a fan of the author I loved getting to see past characters come into play. 
A Secret for a Secret is another great book from Hunting. Fans will need to add this to their collection. 

Early Book Review: Rascal by Jean-Luc Deglin

Rascal by Jean-Luc Deglin is a graphic novel about a mysterious mewling package arriving in the mail. One busy young woman's life changes forever. Rascal lives up to his name, filling every day with wild adventures and long naps: brave expeditions into closets, fierce battles with curtains, and wrestling with slumbering giants... Sometimes she's tempted to throw him out the window. He's lucky he's cute.
Rascal is a cute book about a reluctant cat owner and the mischief that more pet owners can identify with. Rascal is a cute cat, and the illustrations are nice. The black cat is well paired with the tones used on each page. Cats are a blend of sweetness and trouble, killing machines that can endear themselves to even the most reluctant guardians and make us their caretakers, cooks, and maids. I think those of us that already have cats in their lives, and those that wish they did, will enjoy and see something of themselves in the story. 

Early Book Review: Leo's Monster by Marcus Pfister

Leo's Monster by Marcus Pfister is a picturebook currently scheduled for release on My 5 2020.  When Leo, the city mouse, visits his friend Zoe in the countryside for the first time, he meets a huge and horrible monster.  It’s gigantic, has lots of horns, an enormous tail, and when it roars, the earth shakes. At least that’s what Leo saw. Or did he? Zoe thinks his description sounds just like Berta, the sweet-tempered cow in the meadow.
Leo's Monster is a brightly illustrated story that reminded me of the old legend about the blind men and the elephant. Trying to describe something we have never encountered before can be hard, and overcoming fear when facing something we do not know or understand can be hard. I think this story does a good job of showing readers that they are not alone in these reactions, and that sharing with a friend or trusted adult can help alleviate the fear, and find the truth behind the matter. I loved the artwork, and thought the changes to the 'monster' as the story progressed was a perfect touch.